Tracking the Storm: Analysis
-- The Carolina Hurricanes capped an abnormal week that saw their second postponement due to winter weather in as many weeks with an equally abnormal game. The Canes defeated the Ottawa Senators 6-3 for their third straight victory in a game that saw the teams trade seven of the nine total goals scored in the second period alone. “In these afternoon games, you don’t know what to expect,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “I was really happy with our start in the first period. It looked like we were in control, and then we made a few mistakes. We just blamed it on a few brain cramps in an afternoon game. But it was great how we came back in the third, calmed down and started over again.”
-- Eleven different players registered points for the Hurricanes. Nathan Gerbe (1g, 2a) and Manny Malhotra (2g, 1a) each had three points, and three others registered a pair of points, as the Canes got production from players on every forward line. “For us to be successful continuously, we have to get efforts from all four lines,” Malhotra said. “It’s nice when we can contribute like that and give Skinny and Staaly and Sems the night off.”
-- The Hurricanes had a 1-0 lead coming into the second period thanks to Nathan Gerbe’s wrap-around goal scored at the 10:30 mark of the first. And then everything broke wide open. Eric Staal and Malhotra scored within 32 seconds of each other, and then the two teams traded five goals in the last 6:37 of the period. “People got their money’s worth,” said Andrej Sekera, who had two assists and was a plus-2. “At the end of the day, we won the game, and that’s a good feeling.”
-- Sekera’s first assist was a thing of beauty. The play began with Sekera’s smooth skating, as he weaved his way through the defense to the front of the net for a scoring opportunity. The puck would eventually find its way back up to the point, as he walked along the half wall and spotted a wide-open Riley Nash, who settled the puck and picked a corner. “I just try to make the simple plays, and when I see an opening, I maybe create something a little bit,” said Sekera, who now has a career-high 30 points (8g, 22a) on the season.
-- Speaking of beautiful assists, Gerbe’s feed to Malhotra in the second period was executed perfectly. Drayson Bowman started the play with an aggressive stick play in the neutral zone that led to a turnover and forced the puck deep in Ottawa’s zone. Gerbe’s speed and precision took over from there. “He’s an incredible player,” Malhotra said of Gerbe. “And then Nathan did what he does best using his speed to get to the puck and made an incredible saucer pass to me.”
-- Kyle Turris would pull Ottawa within two goals late in the third period, the second of which was a shorthanded tally as the Canes were a bit on their heels defensively. Tuomo Ruutu then came up with a huge goal, a power-play marker at that, to widen the Canes lead again. It was a simple play, as he picked up a loose puck, walked in on a two-on-one and scored. “That was his best of the year. That’s how he plays – with energy and finishes his checks and creates turnovers,” Muller said. “He had that two-on-one, and I was hoping he’d shoot, and he did.”
-- Just 10 seconds after Ruutu tallied, though, Ottawa walked right back down the ice and cut the lead to two again; the Canes had a 5-3 lead after two periods. Credit the Canes for tightening up their defensive mistakes in the third period to hold onto the lead and snag the two points. “It was good for a while, and then it got interesting. They’ve got some skill and talent, and if you get loose, they can make you pay,” Staal said. “I thought our mental recovery in the second intermission and the ability of everyone, to a man, to focus and be ready for the third was excellent.”
-- Noontime faceoffs certainly aren’t the norm. But in talking to some of the players in the locker room after the game, they seemed to enjoy it. “Actually, in my personal opinion, I love these games,” Sekera said, echoing the sentiments of Gerbe. “You wake up, you eat, you go play and then you have the whole afternoon to rest.”
-- A few random notes: The Canes have improved to 11-0-1 in their last 12 games against Ottawa at home. They have outscored the Senators, 43-17, in those games. … Alexander Semin now has points in five straight games, as he posted two assists. … The Canes are 14-1-4 this season when scoring first.
-- The Canes’ third straight victory sets the table nicely for Monday’s visit from the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are in action later today versus Buffalo. Columbus, as of writing this, has won eight games in a row. The result of their game aside, it will be a big divisional match-up with crucial standings implications. “They’ve stolen some points from us, and they’ve all been tight games,” Muller said. “We’ve got to rest tomorrow and get back at it on Monday morning.”
After the Hurricanes opened a 1-0 lead in a tentative first period, the teams scored seven second-period goals. Carolina scored twice 23 seconds apart, beginning when Semin made a perfect lead pass through the neutral zone to Eric Staal, who beat Robin Lehner through the legs at 6:05.
Malhotra made it 3-0 when he buried Gerbe's pass from the left wing. Malhotra finished from the top of the crease after Gerbe lifted a nice saucer pass across the slot.
Riley Nash pushed the score to 4-0 at 13:23 after Sekera held a puck in at the blue line before circling and finding Nash in the slot.
A little more than two minutes later, Kyle Turris put the Senators on the board. Clarke MacArthur gathered the rebound of Eric Gryba's shot and slid it to Turris, who had a wide-open net.
Turris scored his second of the game at 17:47 with the Senators shorthanded. With Chris Neil in the box on a four-minute high-sticking penalty, MacArthur fed a diagonal pass to Turris, who scored his 17th of the season. Turris has 10 goals in his past 15 games.
The Hurricanes extended the lead to 5-2 when Tuomo Ruutu beat Lehner off the glove at 19:27. The Senators answered 10 seconds later. Khudobin fumbled a rebound in the crease, and Mika Zibanejad popped the loose puck into the net.
Senators starting goalie Robin Lehner was replaced by Craig Anderson to start the third period after allowing five goals on 22 shots. Anderson stopped the nine shots he faced.
Malhotra scored into an empty net with 1:41 remaining, the only goal of the third period.
The Hurricanes opened the scoring 10:30 into the game on Gerbe's 11th goal of the season. He grabbed a loose puck behind the goal, then swept the puck from the goal line and off Lehner's back side. Malhotra and Mike Komisarek had assists.
The game was originally scheduled for Friday but had to be moved due to Carolina's schedule being altered by weather postponements earlier in the week.